Dr. Brent Bauer on Complementary Medicine

Brent Bauer, M.D. is Director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine progam at Mayo Clinic, and is an expert at sorting out what has been scientifically established about various herbal supplements, vitamins and other complementary medicine alternatives.

Dr. Bauer is the medical editor for a new Mayo Clinic book on this topic, which will be coming out soon. Below is a sample news story we did for our content task force earlier this year, to show what kind of stories we might be able to produce on a quick turnaround with a miniDV camera. Dr. Bauer is an excellent resource for news stories about complementary medicine, and the book will be a good resource for consumers who want to know which supplements have scientifically proven benefits, and which ones may have interactions with medications.


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Dr. Max Gomez out at WNBC?

Broadcasting & Cable reported this week that Dr. Max Gomez, the Health and Science reporter for NBC’s flagship station in New York, will be among those losing jobs as part of the network’s cost-cutting.

If this is true, it is perhaps the ultimate expression of a trend we’ve seen in local TV news for some time. Many TV stations formerly had physician journalists who would provide news and medically informed commentary, while others would have reporters regularly assigned to the health care beat. The Association of Health Care Journalists and others (PDF of journal article) have produced reports highlighting concerns about medical news coverage on local TV stations. One of those concerns is that many if not most stations treat medical news as a general assignment beat, which doesn’t allow reporters to develop the savvy and expertise they need to cover this highly technical subject matter.

The trend is toward the networks producing more health and medical news and features, and feeding it to the local affiliates. That’s been happening for a long time, but when a major network station in the biggest market no longer has a physician reporter, apparently for budgetary reasons, how many stations can or will continue to afford a regular on-air physician?

From my reading of Jeff Jarvis, I’m pretty sure he would say this is a good thing…or at least it is a reality TV stations should embrace. He’s big on local stations and newspapers getting more local in their news focus in terms of what their reporters (aided by the community) produce, and leave a few bigger organizations (networks and wire services) to do the truly national stories. He sees it as vanity, for instance, that compels local media to send reporters to the Super Bowl or to national political conventions. There really isn’t a local angle to these national events, at least one that needs to be covered on site, but the local media feel more important by having a correspondent there.

I think Jeff would say, for example, that this week’s FDA approval of Herceptin for a type of early-stage breast cancer is a national story that can be very well covered by the networks and the wires, and that for the most part local outlets should mainly be conduits.

What do you think?

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GTD and The Invention of the Medical Record

In my work with Mayo Clinic in news media relations, I always look for applications of the principles of Mayo’s medical practice. Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. I figure the same principles that make Mayo Clinic successful as a medical practice would be likely to lead to success in relations with news media, too…and in my personal life. Or at least they would be a good place to start.

One of Mayo Clinic’s innovations, just over 100 years ago, was the unified patient record. In that day it was revolutionary to even think of physicians working in teams instead of taking individual responsibility for their patients. But Dr. William Mayo and Dr. Charles Mayo knew what they didn’t know, and that knowledge in medicine was growing so rapidly that they needed to combine the expertise of others to get the best results for their patients. As Dr. Will put it, “…In order that the sick may have the benefit of advancing knowledge, union of forces is necessary.”

The Mayo brothers saw that to have that “union of forces” it also was necessary to have a centralized medical record for each patient, instead of each physician keeping notes in a journal. One of the early Mayo partners, Dr. Henry Plummer, developed this pioneering system that is taken for granted today. It wasn’t obvious at the time.

Now Mayo Clinic has a completely electronic version of the medical record, which enables specialists to collaborate even more efficiently, because they can be looking at the same patient’s records and images, even if they aren’t together in the same office…or even in the same state.

How does this relate to GTD and “stress-free productivity?” David Allen says an external, trusted system is essential. You can’t keep it all in your head. You need to put your information into a system that you know you will review regularly, and from which you will be able to get the information when you need it. With that, you can be “in the moment” and focus on what you’re doing right then, instead of thinking about what you’re not doing.

Mayo Clinic is able to efficiently diagnose and treat more than 500,000 patients a year because its systems are organized so every piece of information needed is available at the point of care delivery, and because processes are set up to get data into the system quickly, easily and completely. Caregivers know and trust that all of the information is in the system. That, and the salaried model for compensation, enables physicians to take as much time as they need with each patient, without feeling stressed and hurried.

So how have we applied this to our media relations work? Our media relations team has developed a similar system for press calls, so when a journalist calls for a comment from one of Mayo’s medical or scientific subject experts, or in response to a news release, we can track what happened with that call. It’s a trusted system, because every call we receive is entered into it.

That’s probably why GTD resonated with me so much, and why I just took the plunge after reading the book on my plane ride home from Jacksonville.

Taking the time to organize a system really fits with Mayo Clinic’s heritage, too. When Dr. Plummer invented the centralized medical record in early 1907, he just disappeared for a few days to do it. When he came back, he had invented the basic structure that is still used today, nearly 100 years later. I suppose he could have just said he was too busy with the press of patients to see, that he couldn’t make time to get away and do this planning. But patients all over the world are better off because he made the time.

Your investment of time in establishing your GTD system probably won’t have such an enormous payoff for all of humanity as Dr. Plummer’s did. But who knows? Maybe it will.

It will make a long-term difference for you personally. By developing a system that lets you make your decisions up front about where different kinds of information should go, you will save a huge amount of time in your everyday life. You won’t find yourself caught in dilemmas, wasting time trying to decide where a given bit of information belongs. You will have some rules and structure that reduce these collecting and processing decisions to a snap, because you’ll know where things should go.

It is practically necessary to have both paper records and electronic systems for organizing your life. Paper isn’t going away, and virtually everyone today also needs a system for tracking the electronic inputs, too…e-mail, at a minimum. In a future post I will look at systems for both physical and virtual organization.

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Strategic Health Care Podcasting Audioconference

During the noon hour today we listened to an audioconference presentation sponsored by Strategic Health Care Communications, which outlined several ways health care organizations are using video and audio podcasting to communicate with employees, patients and potential patients, or for continuing medical education classes.

One interesting point I heard from the Arizona cardiology group was that they found video was about nine times more popular than audio, based on a year of podcast delivery.

It was good to hear some practical experiences from some other groups using podcasting, and I also thought the idea of hosting podcasts within a blog made sense, to make the segments easier for search engines to find.

The listing of online podcast directories and search engines also was helpful. In addition to using a blog, it would be good to get podcasts listed on iTunes, Yahoo! Podcasts, Podcast.net, Podcast Alley, Pod Feeder, Podcasting News, Podnova, All Podcasts, Loomia, iPodder.org, Odeo, Podcast Directory, Digital Podcast, Podcast Bunker, Pod Feed, Podcast Pickle, Pod Tower, and Podscope.

A CD of this audioconference is available on the web, and for my fellow Mayo Clinic listeners, let me know if you want a copy of the presentation materials.

I would welcome any thoughts from others who attended this audioconference, in terms of what would be most applicable and actionable.

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Pew Releases Report on Health Web Search

The Pew Internet & American Life project has just released a new survey (download the PDF here) examining the behavior of the American public when it comes to on-line search for health information.

The Headline:

Most internet users start at a search engine when looking for health information online.
Very few check the source and date of the information they find.

About 10 million people search for health information each day, but only 15 percent check the validity of sources they find. The Pew pollsters hypothesize that it is because about 10 times as many people say they have had positive health results from their on-line information quests as compared to those who say they got bum info.

For people looking for trustworthy health information, I would suggest (in addition to the official government sites like NIH and CDC) MayoClinic.com for general health information or mayoclinic.org for information about specific treatments at Mayo Clinic. I know the people who work on both sites, and I know the editing and double-checking processes ensure that the information will be reliable. If you don’t check the sources, they have.

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